Jackson State University Marching Band The Sonic Boom of the South

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1Jackson State University Marching Band

The Sonic Boom of the South

A Profile of Excellence

Dr. Lewis Liddell, Sr., Director of Bands

Jackson, Mississippi 39217
Steeped in Tradition

The Jackson State University Marching Band is not a military
band, it is not a show band, it is not a SWAC band, it is not a
stereotypical black college band, it is not a corp style band,

simple put, in terms of musicianship, precision, entertainment,
and aesthetics, Jackson State University Marching Band, “The
Sonic Boom of the South” is among the top marching band
in the United States–a “Showtime Band,” that will “rock da house
anywhere an every time

The Jackson State University Marching Band, “The Sonic Boom the South”

A Profile of Excellence

The Jackson State University Marching Band is a direct outgrowth of the symphonic wind ensemble and concert band. The marching band provides music for athletic events, selected parades, and ceremonial occasions primarily during the Fall Semester. Also, as an academic class, the marching band provides a laboratory experience for music education majors.

For more than 68 years, the Jackson State University Marching Band, “The Sonic Boom of the South” has mystified and thrilled audiences throughout the nation. The band was first organized in the early 1940s under the direction of part-time band director Kermit Holly, Sr. (As early as the mid-1920s, the University had an organized orchestra.) In its infancy, the band consisted of college students and students from Lanier High School where Holly was employed as full-time band director. In 1948, William W. Davis of Ironton, Ohio, former arranger for Cab Calloway’s legendary big band became the first full-time band director. Davis’s concept of the marching band was greatly influenced by Cab Calloway’s big band sound and showmanship. Cab Calloway’s influence is still present today in the sound and show design of the Jackson State University Marching Band.

Serving as band director for 23 years, Davis developed a comprehensive band program–symphonic band and marching band. In 1965, under the baton of William W. Davis, the Symphonic Band reached its apex with a performance at the New York World’s Fair, becoming the first historically African-American college to perform at a world’s fair. Under his direction, the marching band became a first class musical organization known for its intricate maneuvers, precision marching and the big band sound.

Davis’s musical genius transcends the barriers of time and space. Through his leadership and teaching, Davis influenced several generations of African-American band directors, including the current Director of Bands, Dr. Lewis Liddell, Sr., and former directors, Harold Haughton (Retired Director of Bands at Virginia State University) and Dowell Taylor. Other band directors influenced by Davis, just to name a few, included: Dr. Dolly M. E. Robinson, Dean College of Liberal Arts, Dr. Jimmie James, Chair Department of Music, Dr. Michael Magruder, Director of Bands at Winston-Salem State University, Samuel Griffin, Director of Bands at Alcorn State University, Louis Lee, retired Director of Bands at Utica Junior College, and Dr. Estus Smith, former Vice President of Academic Affairs. In fact, during Davis’s tenure, Jackson State University became known as somewhat of a Mecca for the development of African-American band directors.

Jackson State University Marching Band is an original show band. The group was given the nickname, “The Sonic Boom of the South” by band members in 1971. Also, in 1971 the majorettes abandoned their batons and became a dance team. The dance team became known as the Prancing J-Settes. Baton twirling was relegated to special features by soloists and duet performers. In 1974, “Get Ready,” an old Motown favorite was selected as the band’s theme song. Also, during the mid 1970s, the “Tiger Run-On” was perfected. The “Tiger Run-On” is a fast, eye-catching shuffle step that blends an adagio step with an up tempo shuffle (200 steps per minute), then back to adagio—a “Sonic Boom” trademark that brings fans to their feet during halftime performances.

As a tribute to the legacy and mystique of the Jackson State University Marching Band, “The Sonic Boom of the South” is frequently invited to perform at athletic events and to participate in band extravaganzas nationwide. A few of the most notable performances and honors bestowed on “The Sonic Boom of the South” are listed below:

    1. Professional Sports events (New York Jets, Houston Oilers, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzles, Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, Cincinnati Bengals, and the NBA All-Star game

  1. The 34th NAACP Image Awards, with a special guest performance by “Cedric the Entertainer.” The program was aired nationwide on FOX Television

        1. Motown’s 30th Anniversary television special

        2. Senior Bowl (1997 and 2004)

  2. Dr. Liddell narrated a video entitled “War & Thunder BEHIND THE DRUMLINE,” produced by Donna Lawrence Productions for the NCAA

  3. The marching band was filmed by Electronic Art Sports (EA Sports) for the2005 vision of the video game "EA Sports NCAA Football 2005

  4. Honda Battle of Bands

  5. 2005-2007, The Award Winning dog Days: Jackson State Marching Band, CSTV Networks, Inc., 85 Tenth Ave., 23rd, New York, New York, 10011 (National Televised for more than 50 times on CSTV)

  6. Dr. Liddell was featured on ESPN Classic (National Television) in a Symposium on the origin of Historical Black College and University

  7. Enshrined in the NCAA Hall of Champions

“The Sonic Boom of the South,” will wake you up and make you move, whether you’re watching them steal the half-time show or practicing on the field. The Jackson State University Marching Band, “The Sonic Boom of the South” is a very diverse, competent, and a flexible musical group. The band can perform just about any type of music or show–from classical to jazz. Simply put, the Jackson State University Marching Band is a “Showtime Band,” that will “rock da house” anywhere and every time.

The Force behind the Sonic Boom and the JSU Band Program

Dr. Lewis Liddell, Sr., Director of Bands

Currently, the 300-member Jackson State University Marching Band, “The Sonic Boom of the South,” backed by a Legendary drum line nicknamed “War and Thunder,” led by the Jackson Five Drum Majors, and the high-stepping Prancing J-Settes (Dance Line) is directed by Dr. Lewis Liddell, Sr. Associate Professor of Music and Director Bands at Jackson State University. He was awarded the Bachelor of Music Education degree from Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi (1967), the Master of Music Education degree from the University of Louisiana Monroe, Monroe, Louisiana (1969), and the Doctorate from Mississippi State University, Starkville, Mississippi (1977). He studied conducting under Professor William W. Davis and the internationally renowned conductor, Dr. Joe Barry Mullins.

Dr. Liddell began his teaching career in 1967 as band director at Wesley Ray High School, Angie, Louisiana. In 1970, Dr. Liddell assumed the band director’s position at his high school alma mater, Brinkley High School (Class of 1963), Jackson, Mississippi. After 14 years of teaching and directing award winning bands in Jackson Public Schools, Dr. Liddell moved to higher education. His university teaching and administrative experience includes:

  1. Director of Bands, Kentucky State University, Frankfort, Kentucky

  2. Chairperson, Division of Fine Arts, Kentucky State University, Frankfort, Kentucky

  3. Associate Professor of Music, North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, North Carolina

  4. Director of Institutional Research, Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky

  5. Assistant to the President, Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky

  6. Assistant to the President, Winona State University, Winona, Minnesota

An excellent performer in his own right, an intense disciplinarian, he is a superb bandmaster and teacher–the dynamic force behind the Jackson State University band program. Under his leadership, the band program has received statewide, regional, and national recognition as a “Benchmark” of musical excellence. The marching band has grown from a standard marching band of 128 members to an electrifying marching unit of more than 300 members strong.

The Famous Floating J S U

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